The Online Journal of the Art of Magic

is sponsored by
»The Magic Depot
The Trickery
Hank Lee's »
Thank you for your support!
Looking for more? Check out the Store!

Sign up to receive the
Online-Visions Newsletter!

Sign me up now!
Unsubscribe me.

Kenton Knepper's
"Krystal Visions"

Peter Marucci's
"Bizarre Bazaar"

Craig Browning's
"Cranial Consternations"

Michael Matson's
"My Magic - My Way"

Michael Jay's
"Thoughts on the
Passing Scene"

Rich Tenace's
"Stage Stuff"

Scott Guinn's

Jon Thompson's
"Thinking Allowed"

"One Eye, Inward"

Dan Paulus's
"Real Magic"

"Stages of Illusions"

Andi Gladwin's

Andy Leviss's
"Shared Thoughts"

Tyler Wilson's
"More Than Words"

"At The Shop" Reviews

"In Your Hands" Effects

"Proving the Impossible"

"Other Visions"
Guest Contributors

Free Visions

Visions Store

Visions Links

Contacting Visions

Submitting an Article

Privacy Statement

Administration Info



My Magic - My Way
Michael Matson

Hitting the Deck

Occasionally, I read through the topics and posts at another wonderful magic website, themagiccafe, seeking inspiration for articles here on Visions. During my browsing at themagiccafe, I found an interesting topic that I thought might be perfect for me to share my thoughts on with all of the readers of Visions. The original thread of posts can be found here.

The basic topic question is, "What do you do or say if you accidentally drop some of your cards while performing a card effect"? I had not realized that this topic was of much interest to many, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that nearly every magician, no matter how skilled one may be with a deck of cards, has, at one point, accidentally dropped a few cards during his or her performance and it would be nice to have a strategy or, at least, a good line to combat this embarrassing situation.

The more you perform with playing cards, the more cards you will drop. It is common sense. During the course of my career I have dropped countless amounts of cards while performing. You may have
assumed I was a flawless manipulator of the pasteboards, but everybody has an off day... and some of those new decks are slippery! Nevertheless, I can normally improvise a good, often humorous, line at the moment this occurs to avoid embarrassment and make this slightly awkward moment an entertaining one.

To save you the trouble of having to think on your feet, should you be even less adept at ad-libbing than handling cards, I have collected a wide variety of stock lines and useful information on this specific topic from which you can pick and choose which ideas and lines you like, then apply it when you find your cards falling for you. Some of the lines I have included below are used by other performers, so please be considerate and use your best judgment in selecting and using any of the following lines. Please feel free to use any of the lines in which I personally supply; you will see a "~
Michael Matson" after them. In all of the lines below, I have given credit to the person or persons who have inspired or used the line in the past.

What do you do if you drop the deck? This question primarily applies to those who perform walk-around, strolling, or table-hopping card magic, as you rarely tend to drop that many cards when working on a tabletop but it does happen occasionally. In my opinion, after dropping the cards, you have three choices. First, you can pick up the cards yourself and continue performing. Second, you can enlist the help of one of the spectators and ask them to kindly help you in picking up the cards. Last, you can leave the cards on the floor and move onto a different effect, ignoring them until the conclusion of your performance.

THE ACT IS PICKING UP - Picking the Cards Up Yourself
My first suggestion is that if you absolutely must bend down and pick up fallen cards, please kneel down on one knee. Do not bend at the waist with your rear sticking in the air, spread-legged, or kneeling on both knees as it makes you appear unprofessional. It is more aesthetically pleasing for
the audience and physically easier on the magician to bend down on one knee to pick up the required props, and then stand once again. This also places the magician in a position where he can still comfortably speak with his audience and maintain eye contact. I use this technique whenever I have to pick up any prop from the floor or a lower level. The following are some
lines and ideas to use if you drop some cards and decide to retrieve them yourself.

"No no, that's ok. I'll get them. Don't help or anything. I wouldn't want to trouble any of you. You wouldn't do it right anyway." ~ Inspired by David Acer. This line is said with a bit of comical sarcasm.

"Oh no... you ain't getting away that easily" ~ Michael Matson
Look down at the fallen cards and speak directly to them when saying this line. You could stomp on the cards as if they were attempting to scurry away. A squeeker lightly tapped in your pocket while stomping produces a nice comic effect that the cards are squeaking as you step on them.

If you drop some cards, but the selected card has already been controlled to the top of the deck, meaning you still have it in your possession, this is the perfect opportunity to go right into the Fred Kap's effect that Bill Malone calls, "I Should Have Done It Myself" on Volume 1 of his On the Loose
videos. Then, at the conclusion of the effect, all of the cards could be gathered up.

If you happen to drop the cards to the floor and require those same cards for your current effect or a future one, or if you are not carrying a spare deck, I recommend asking a spectator to help you in picking up the fallen cards. Most are happy to assist. However, to make it appear as though you are not simply using them for this purpose, it is nice of you to pick up a few cards that are nearest you while having the spectator grab the rest of the cards.

"Would you mind helping me in my moment of human weakness?" ~ Michael Matson
This is a funny line that reminds the audience that, although the magician may appear to be amazing skilled, he is also human and capable of making the same human mistakes that everyone else is prone to, such as clumsiness. I feel this allows the audience to relate more readily with the magician and become more acceptive and responsive to the performance.

"Would you mind?" ~ Jeff Hobson, World Greatest Magic 2.
Make eye contact with a spectator and point at the cards on the floor while saying this. As the
spectator bends over to pick up the fallen cards, Jeff Hobson sneaks a little peek at their bum. Although I do not do this myself, if you are performing in the appropriate venue and such action is suitable for your character, it could play very well.

A small running joke is, after you drop a few cards, to pick up some cards yourself as the spectator picks up some, then occasionally toss or spring a few cards behind the spectator when they are not looking and claim that they missed a few behind them. As they continuously pick up cards, you could use the line, "Have you ever helped a magician before? Well, you're not helping one now!" ~
Amazing Jonathon

Should you happen to drop the cards in the middle of your performance and decide to leave them on the floor for the time, the obvious solution is to use the old Invisible Deck to apparently find the spectator's original selection. Tell the spectator that it would have been far to easy to have found their card in that deck, referring to the fallen deck, but you want to really impress them, then proceed with the Invisible Deck routine. In this type of scenario if you freeze up, forget your lines, or want to continue with the flow of an effect, the Invisible Deck could not only save you but turn a potentially detrimental situation into a highly beneficial one. After using the invisible deck, due to the fact that the deck is gimmicked and because the invisible deck is such a strong effect, I recommend putting it away and moving onto using different props such as coins or sponge balls. In fact, even if you do not have an invisible deck to use after dropping some cards, you can still abandon the card effects and move into a different effect using different props.

You should always carry a spare deck with you when performing for a professional gig. I always carry at least one extra deck on my person, even if you have to put it into your sock because your pockets are filled with other magic props. Yes, I have actually kept an extra sealed deck in my sock
during a walk-around gig and that was the night that I dropped my entire deck. I remember saying something like, "The sign of a true professional... (pause for laughs) is when opportunity and preparation meet." Then, I lifted up my pant leg and retrieved the deck wedged in my sock. It was quite a humorous moment for those witnessing this. The fact that I had a spare in my sock was funny, but I think what truly made the moment comical was that I was prepared as if dropping the deck is something that I do all the time. In reality, I think they were laughing at my apparent consistent clumsiness. I know many are curious; did they mind that the new deck came from my sock? No, not really, because they were far too wrapped up in the moment and laughing. Besides, it was a sealed deck and nobody is asked to touch the cellophane wrapper for any reason. I also always keep at least one spare deck in my bag or car. It is important to be prepared!

If I am handling cards at a restaurant, table-hopping, or strolling gig I normally use an approach similar to this one: "Greetings! My name is Michael Matson, if you watch closely and practice
every day for the next 10 years you'll be able to show your friends a card trick. If you don't have any friends who'll have to practice that first. Due to my charming personality I have a bunch of friends.
(Display the cards) This is jack, and Mary, and Don. ( This is especially good if your doing a Clyde or Phil type of named card effect.) These are my friends, but they are more than that. They are my 52 helpers. (Purposely drop a few cards) It's hard to find good help these days."

One abstract thought: If you use a gravity-related line after dropping the cards i.e. - "Gravity sucks", "Gravity, not just a good idea - it's the law", "A sudden gust of gravity", etc. I think a nice follow-up would be to do a card rise while claiming that you are adjusting the gravity.

If you drop your deck of cards and decide to leave those cards on the floor while you continue with your performance, please remember to pick up all of the fallen cards before moving onto entertaining a different group. This is for safety reasons, as people walking by at the event in which you are entertaining may slip on them and injure themselves.

Now, I would like to offer a variety of lines that I use in my everyday work. Many of the lines are delivered with quite a bit of acting finesse. In addition, some of the following lines are spoken directly to the cards.Treating the cards as living, breathing characters further enhances the
comical aspects of the following lines. Give your deck a personality. All of the following lines work very well for me and fit my style. I certainly understand that some of the following lines may not suite everybody, but please feel free to adapt them and make them your own. Some are good, some are just for a quick chuckle. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy!


Just look down at the cards on the floor and, softly yet in an exaggerated manner, begin to weep.

"Now I gotta stack them all over again!" ~ Michael Matson

"Needs work..." ~ Used by others

"I can't work under these conditions!" ~ Used by others

"I forgot! They're ticklish!" ~ Michael Matson

"Bless you! Poor babies got a cold." ~ Michael Matson (Talking to the deck)

"I'm sorry, they haven't been themselves since... the accident. We don't like to talk about it."
~ Michael Matson

"I gotta get a real job." ~ Used by countless others

"Clean Up! Aisle 5!" ~ Michael Matson

"And you thought I wasn't going to be entertaining." ~ Michael Matson

"Someone will be along shortly to clean that up. That's why we have unions." ~ Inspired by David Williamson

"You didn't really want to meet THOSE cards anyway. They're the outcasts. The deck is better off without them." ~ Michael Matson. This line is delivered in a hushed tone.

"I'm not as gifted/skilled as the real magicians." ~ Inspired by David Williamson

"I'll level with you. I'm not really a magician, I'm just filling in for the other guy, but he's in jail right now so you're much better off with me." ~ Michael Matson

"Phew.. they're a lot heavier than I remember." ~ Michael Matson

"About time you lost some weight!" ~ Michael Matson (Talking to the deck)

"Aren't you glad I'm not a surgeon?" ~ Michael Matson

"Nobody panic! I know just what to do!" ~ Michael Matson At this point, I act like I'm calling someone on my cellphone and, in an exaggerated near crying tone, I say, "Mom, it happened again!"

"I'm just going to use those to mark where the lighting is good!" ~ Saw a similar line at t the magic cafe website.

"If I don't do that every 15 minutes, I can't find my way home at the end of the night." ~ Michael Matson

"That would have never happened if I were using a trick deck." ~ Michael Matson

"Now the host is going to beat me! Don't tell him!" ~ Michael Matson

"Bad Cards!" (Begin slapping the deck) "Who's your daddy?" ~ Used by others

"I'm too young & cute for this kind of stress!" ~ Michael Matson

"It's not just the ladies that fall for me." ~ Michael Matson

"Whoa... earthquake. About a .3 - you probably didn't feel it because it's so subtle, but I'm just a sensitive guy." ~ Michael Matson

"My magic is so good even the cards worship at my feet." ~ Michael Matson

"I meant to do that... much, much later in the show." ~ Michael Matson

"Where were you on that one? You were supposed to catch them. You're fired!" ~ Michael Matson (Spoken to spectator in a comical manner)

"They're on strike! They think they have a good union, but they don't.They're practically slaves." ~ Futurama

"Narcolepsy! Sometimes they just FALL... asleep. Looks like I'm driving home tonight." ~ Michael Matson

"Come on guys don't bail out on me now! I need you guys! You're part of the team! Now, you get back in the game!" ~ Michael Matson (Talking to cards)

"Takes a true professional to drop the cards with such grace!" ~ Michael Matson

"Up Boys... Up! ... They're still in training." ~ Michael Matson

"Pull yourself together! We're professionals!" ~ Michael Matson

"Looks like the glue is wearing off." ~ Michael Matson

"I could have sworn I fixed that!" ~ Michael Matson (Pick up the cards and riffle the end of the deck so it appears as though you are winding and tightening them in place.)

"You should have told me you had to go before leaving the house!" ~ Michael Matson (Talking to the cards)

"When you gotta go, you gotta go." ~ Michael Matson. Obviously a well-known line that I use in this context.

"FREEDOM! Godspeed little buddies!" ~ Michael Matson

"I just want all of you to know... I'm not mad... I'm just very disappointed." ~ Michael Matson
Another well known line used in the context of talking to the fallen cards.I follow up by speaking to the audience, "I'm sorry you had to see that."

"Oh No! This is the worst 23 card pile-up I have ever seen! Everyone give them some air." ~ Michael Matson. If I decide to pick up the fallen cards, I bend down and give a playing card CPR to milk the laughs, then gather up the cards.

"AAAAHHHHH!!!! I'm sorry, but did you see the size of that spider on top of the deck?" ~ Michael Matson. Follow up with JimPace's Web trick!

Michael Matson

All content ©2003-2007 The Visions Group
All Rights Reserved. Any duplication without expressed written permission is strictly prohibited.

The views expressed are solely those of the contributors and may not necessarily be those of TVG, its clients, sponsors, or affiliates.